"We step forth into life with our dreams but we are pierced by life's reality as well."
~ Richard Moss
Throughout life, we all experience many types and degrees of grief. In addition to death, all other losses need to be fully grieved in order to maintain consistent emotional well-being. Besides grieving a physical death, a child might need to grieve a divorce, a wife might need to fully grieve the loss of her spouse's health, a teenager might need to grieve the end of his relationship.
You might need to grieve your lost dreams. You might need to grieve because you have fundamental core value differences with someone you love. Or, you might have inner child aspects inside that need to grieve because love and safety were not provided in the past.
It is typical to cycle through the various stages of grief. When you are processing a loss, you might cycle through panic and anger, for example. Resisting your loss, you might try to control your circumstances or other people, and then fall into despair when you cannot. With time, you will exhaust yourself and likely need to withdraw into a deep depression (a place of deep rest) until you find a natural place of acceptance for your loss.
THE SIX STAGES OF GRIEF
1. NUMBNESS AND DENIAL
To initially cope with loss it is common to go in a state of shock and denial. Denial helps you to pace your feelings of grief, but it also makes you feel numb, hard and frozen. As you proceed through the grieving process, all the feelings you have been denying about your loss will eventually need to surface.
2. ANXIETY AND PANIC
When you feel anxiety, deeper feelings about your loss will pierce through your denial. Anxiety and panic will chip away at your emotional numbness, hardness or frozenness to indicate that you need to go into the deeper stages of grief so that it can be resolved. It is also important to note that once co-regulation with a loved one is gone, your nervous system can experience anxiety, fear, and panic attacks.
3. BARGAINING AND CONTROL
The normal reaction to feeling helpless and vulnerable after a loss is to try to regain control through a series of “If only” statements. This is an attempt to bargain. Guilt often accompanies bargaining. You might believe there was something you could have done differently to avoid your loss. You might become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements for a period of time.
4. FRUSTRATION AND ANGER
At this stage, intense emotions deflected from your vulnerable core can get redirected and expressed as anger. You might resent the person you have lost for causing you pain or for leaving you. Your anger and frustration might be aimed at inanimate objects, complete strangers, friends or family. Anger might be directed toward the person you have lost or towards yourself. After bargaining and your attempts to control do not work, you will likely get frustrated and fed up, and you will have to face your loss at a deeper level.
5. DEPRESSION AND DESPAIR
After bargaining and attempts to control fail, grief enters into a much deeper level. You might want to withdraw from life for a time to truly process what you have lost. You might feel intense heartbreak and sadness. Furthermore, you might wonder despairingly if there is any point in going on. When a loss fully settles into your being there will be a deep realization that your life will not continue as it was before.
6. ACCEPTANCE AND PEACE
Eventually, you will learn to live with your loss. In the acceptance stage, you must learn to live in a world where your loved one or your hopes and dreams for the future are missing in some way. You also might need to give up your hope that your emotional and attachment needs from the past will be met.
When resisting this "new normal," it is common to want to maintain life as it was before your loss and cycle through the prior stages of grief again and again. However, in time, dipping in and out of acceptance, you will see that you cannot live your life in the past.
As you listen to and tend to your own needs, you will change, grow, and evolve. You can eventually choose to accept your losses, resolve and reconcile your past, and find ways to live fully in a fresh and fulfilling way going forward.